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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 17:44 GMT
Billy Elliot wins top drama award
Sir Elton John (centre) with the Billy Elliot cast
Sir Elton John (centre) wrote the score for the hit musical
The stage version of Billy Elliot has been named best musical at this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Composer Sir Elton John was at the Savoy Hotel in London to see his show beat Mary Poppins to the coveted prize.

Simon Russell Beale won his third Evening Standard best actor award for The Philanthropist, while best actress went to Harriet Walter for Mary Stuart.

Beale was unable to accept his prize, which was collected on his behalf by playwright Christopher Hampton.

Actress Felicity Kendal, who presented the award, described the Philanthropist star as "one of our great leading actors".

Patrick Stewart and Gillian Anderson looked on as six of the nine awards went to commercial productions.

Stewart will be shortly return to the West End in his one-man production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, while Anderson can currently be seen in the BBC TV version of the same author's Bleak House.


Collecting the best musical award with lyricist Lee Hall, Sir Elton described Billy Elliot as "one of the most enjoyable things I've ever been involved with".

"The more I work in theatre the more I love it," he said, adding it had been "a pure joy" to collaborate on the production.

Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh described the success of commercial shows as "a sign of the remarkable resurgence of the West End".

Gillian Anderson
X Files star Gillian Anderson presented the best designer award
"The diversity of productions, from Death of a Salesman to Billy Elliot, shows further evidence of its vitality."

Brian Friel's The Home Place was named best play, while Michael Grandage took the best director title for Don Carlos.

Actor Joseph Fiennes described the recipient as a "remarkable director" with a "great creative streak".

The Royal Court was given a special award for its "exceptional contribution" to British theatre.

The venue - which celebrates its 50th birthday next year - has always been "provocative, entertaining and exciting," said actress Dame Eileen Atkins.

The full list of winners is as follows:

Best Play The Home Place by Brian Friel

Best Actor Simon Russell Beale, The Philanthropist

Best Actress Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart

Best Director Michael Grandage, Don Carlos

Best Musical Billy Elliot

Best Designer Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins

Outstanding Newcomer David Babani and Danielle Tarento, co-directors of the Menier Chocolate Factory

Most Promising Playwright Nell Leyshon, Comfort Me with Apples

Special Award The Royal Court

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